In the current wave of community action for immigrant rights, a wider public is learning about the realities of life for immigrant workers in the U.S., undocumented and documented. Since the passage in 1994 of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the number of immigrants from Mexico has increased dramatically. Hundreds of thousands of displaced rural Mexicans could no longer support themselves in an agricultural economy distorted by an unrestricted flood of subsidized, bio-engineered U.S. grain.
While most immigrants work for large corporations (growers, meat processors, construction firms and hotel chains), there are many examples of alternative employment for immigrant workers—even opportunities for “green” business ownership at the grassroots. These alternatives seek economic returns while also pursuing environmentally-sustainable business practices. In California’s Central Valley, Oregon, and Washington State, for example, the fastest growing sector in farming operations is Latino immigrants who purchase or lease land, many of whom use sustainable methods that reflect generations of indigenous knowledge, as well as the newest techniques in organic agriculture.